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The word apocalypse (ἀποκάλυψις apocálypsis) is from ancient Greek origin and understood by studying the literary works of ancient authors of classical antiquity. An apocalypse during the time of Jesus is used to convey realities that must be brought to light because they have been hidden for ages from human knowledge and understanding. Ancient authors used the concept of an apocalypse with symbolic language in writing. While the modern use of the term apocalypse has to do with any type of speculative and unwarranted end time scenario or dooms day prediction, this is counter to what ancients thought.

Literary Form of Apocalyptic Literature

As a form of literature apocalypse helps authors bridge the gap of human understanding from physical reality to a deeper metaphysical ultimate reality. The concept of something being apocalyptic is especially highlighted within ancient literature. One important example of apocalyptic literature is the New Testament book of Revelation. The writer uses metaphor and symbolism to describe current societal conditions and situations, as well as the future end state. The concept of apocalypse is manifest in literature as well by writers revealing the elusive and seemingly hidden understandings of historical events.

In form, an apocalypse is a first-person recital of revelatory visions or dreams, framed by a description of the circumstances of the revelatory experience, and structured to emphasize the central revelatory message. In content, an apocalypse involves the communication of a transcendent, often eschatological in perspective on human experience. Finally, apocalypses typically have a threefold function: they legitimate the message through the appeal to transcendent authority by the author (i.e., it is from God), they create a literary surrogate of the author's revelatory experience for readers or hearers (i.e., God speaks to the modern reader just as he spoke to John), and they motivate the recipients to modify their views and behaviors in conformity with transcendent perspectives (i.e., they demand changed behavior).[1]

Biblical Features


Dreams are often the source of deep symbolism that is also very personal. This is recurring theme in biblical literature, especially noted in Daniel and Ezekiel. They help understand and reveal things hidden from the state of being awake.


Angel (Hebrew: מלאך, Malʼākh) quite specifically means messenger of God. It is also considered somewhat of a general term within secular society for any spiritual being that exists outside of the normal boundaries that we call space and time. Within classic biblical Christian tradition these messengers of God, or angels were created by God during the creation week.

End of the Age

Prophecy is communication from a presumed omniscient divine being to a prophet. This message is then conveyed to the people of which are adherents to a particular theology that divine being represents.

Eschatology (Greek εσχατος or eschatos the last and λογος or logos a word) is the study of the last things that the Bible predicts will happen to the world and mankind. Jesus Christ made repeated reference to a sorting-out of saved and lost people at "the end of the world." Moreover, most of the prophets whose writings survive today made some reference to prophecies that would not be fulfilled within the time frame of the Bible--including many that, many commentators suggest, remain unfulfilled to this day.


  1. David Aune, Apocalypticism, Prophecy and Magic In Early Christianity (2006), pg. 2

See Also